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Welfare stats paint an interesting picture

The Ministry of Social Development has just released its annual Statistical Report from 2011

One particular table that caught my eye was a historical summary of numbers receiving financial assistance from 1940 – 2011. Taking 1980 as a baseline for comparison provides some interesting insights. 

In 1980 New Zealand’s population was around 3.18 million, which has since grown to 4.43 million, representing a 39% increase. The numbers receiving financial assistance, however, have increased at much greater rates:

• Domestic Purposes Benefit: from 37,040 to 114,039 (207.9% increase)

• Invalids Benefit: from 15,647 to 88,134 (463.3% increase)

• Sickness Benefit: from 7,504 to 58,895 (684.9% increase)

• Unemployment Benefits: from 20,850 to 70,090 (236.2% increase)

Interestingly, as a proportion of the population, New Zealanders today are: roughly 2.2 times more likely to be on the DPB; 4 times more likely to be on the Invalid’s Benefit; 5.6 times more likely to be on the Sickness Benefit; and 2.4 times more likely to be on an unemployment benefit than those in 1980. 

Taking 1990 as a baseline however, which could be seen as a fairer comparison, provides more nuanced results:

• Domestic Purposes Benefit: from 94,823 to 114,039 (20.27% increase)

• Invalids Benefit: from 27,824 to 88,134 (216.76% increase)

• Sickness Benefit: from 19,511 to 58,895 (201.86% increase)

• Unemployment Benefits: from 149,078 to 70,090 (52.98% decrease)

Once again as a proportion of the population—there were 3.41 million Kiwis in 1990—New Zealanders today are roughly: 7% less likely to be on the DPB; 2.4 times more likely to be on the Invalid’s Benefit; 2.3 times more likely to be on the Sickness Benefit; and 64% less likely to be on an unemployment benefit than those in 1990. 

The graph below paints a fascinating picture of the distribution and number of those receiving financial benefits over the years. As you can see from the graph unemployment figures have fluctuated greatly, so the point-in-time comparisons above must be taken with a grain of salt. Also keep in mind that superannuation isn’t included, nor are demographics such as working age factored in. Be sure to view the table footnotes in the referenced document for clarification around further limitations and sources. 

While welfare issues aren’t all about numbers for the simple reason that they deal with people, used wisely and prudently they can help us better understand the problems facing us so we can deal with them more effectively. 

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